Practices will be asked to conduct ‘targeted TB screening and education’ during new patient checks as part of a £12m primary care-led programme aimed at tackling the growing incidence of tuberculosis in England.
The joint NHS England and Public Health England ‘Collaborative Tuberculosis Strategy’ published today sets out how they will focus on improving the ‘awareness of GPs and other health and social care professionals in high-incidence areas about the TB epidemiology in their locality and referral systems’.
It also says postgraduate education and continuing professional development will have a greater focus on TB, and that PHE will take action to ensure ‘service providers follow NICE guidance on TB in hard-to-reach and vulnerable groups.’
The strategy set out how TB services will be funded from 2015-2020, including £1.5m funding being used to establish new TB control organisations.
In 2013, there were 7,290 TB cases reported in England, an incidence of 13.5 cases per 100,000 of the population. The UK has the second highest rate of TB among Western European countries and rates are nearly five times higher than in the US.
There are few details about how practices will carry out the patient checks, but the strategy document had as one of its action points: ‘Raise awareness and tackle stigma among populations at high risk and who could self-present to health services through[…] targeted TB screening and education as part of new patient checks at GP surgeries.’
The scheme was originally supposed to focus its resources in key areas with especially high incidences of TB, but pending public consultation it will now be nationwide led by nine ‘TB control boards’ run with GP and clinical input.
The boards will follow CCG boundaries and broadly cover the North West England, North East England, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, East of England, West Midlands, London, South East England and South West England.
The £12m in funding will cover three domains, £1.5m to establish the nine TB control boards, £2m for disease testing across England and £8m (decreasing to £6.3m after ten years) for treatment of infection.
Finally, £900,000 will be invested in developing a outreach treatment services in areas with high incidence of TB and currently under-served populations, such as high levels of homelessness or immigration.
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: ‘This strategy is a significant step forward in helping us to control and reduce cases of TB, which still affects thousands of people in England every year.
‘It will target those most vulnerable to TB by improving access to screening, diagnostic and treatment services as well as innovative outreach programmes such as the “Find & Treat” mobile health units.’